Wednesday 29 August 2007

On Sunday August 26, 2007, Loraine Verghese swam to France in 13 Hours and 15 Minutes

Above: Loraine's pilot, Andy King, prepares The Louise Jane for a long hard day in The English Channel, while Loraine says goodbye to Martin from The Sandown Guest House in Dover.

Above: Loraine and three of her support crew on board Louise Jane with Dover Harbour in the background on our way to Shakespeare Beach.

After Loraine supported me on my channel swim, she asked me if I would be her support swimmer for hers. I gladly accepted and at 06:30 Hrs. on Sunday August 26, 2007 we assembled and set off for the short trip from Dover Marina to Shakespeare Beach which was to be the starting point for Loraine's Swim. Loraine was swimming the channel to try to raise £100,000 for Jack Brown, the son of one of her work colleagues, Richard. Jack has a rare form of cancer and needs very expensive medical treatment in the USA.

Arriving at the start point of her swim, Loraine gave Richard a big hug, before sitting on the edge of the boat, jumping in and swimming to shore to be greeted by her mum, daughter, and Martin and Sonia from The Sandown who were waiting on the beach. At about 07.30 Hrs., she set off on what would be a 13 hours and 15 minutes, swim across the English Channel.

Above: Leaving Shakespeare Beach, Dover. Next Stop, France.

The first few hours went really well, and Loraine stormed across the channel. She barely spoke during her very quick feeds, and seemed quite happy with her swimming. She looked to be enjoying it. I helped Nicky with the feeding. Loraine fed every 30 minutes. I gave her the 5 minute hand signal at 25 minutes, Nicky prepared the feed, I stood behind the cabin door, and almost precisely on the 30 minute mark, Andy King took the feeding pole from me, leant over the edge and handed Loraine her feed. It went like clockwork.

After about 10 hours we were in front of Cap Blanc Nez in France and it seemed like you could almost touch France, we were that close. However, there was a 3.6 Knott tide now, which was sweeping us west very fast. To the very far right in the distance was Cap griz Nez. Before we knew it, Wissant swept passed us, then Cap Griz Nez, then in what seemed like no time at all, Cap Griz Nez was far to the left of us. I didn't think we were ever going to stop going west!

Loraine was now getting frustrated and knew we were going sideways. She had been on my boat for my swim, and knew the form. However, we all kept on encouraging her, and at the end of the day, she was still only about 12 hours into the swim, and was only 2 miles from the French coast. Behind us, the sun was setting, and shortly she would be swimming in the dark. Andy put the white board in front of her to ask if she needed me in as a support swimmer. She shook her head and carried on valiantly.

Above: The sun starts to set as we sweep round past Cap Griz Nez.

Above: Me (left) and Jack's Dad, Richard, with Cap Griz Nez clearly in the background which was now to our left.

As night fell, Loraine was getting very emotional and frustrated. We just didn't seem to be getting any closer and she knew it. However, we were inching forward very slowly. Night fell and she changed her goggles for clear ones so she could see better.

Eventually, Andy McGrath put the dinghy into the water and set off towards the shore with Loraine swimming very strongly beside it. It was pitch black, and I held a very large torch which I pointed towards the shore. It was a very rocky section of France, and in the very far distance we could just see Loraine's head, which had a green light on the back, moving on the land. She had done it!

Above: Loraine returns from the French coast in the support dinghy now as "A Channel Swimmer".

Above: The newest Channel Swimmer Loraine Verghese sits on board the Louise Jane after her successful channel swim.

It was a fantastic day, and a fantastic experience to be on board boat and just watch the channel in action. It is a beast of a stretch of water, and experiencing those tides working against a swimmer really taught me alot.

Well done Loraine, you did a fantastic job, and I was proud to be there and watch you.


Monday 20 August 2007

This week is Loraine Verghese's Channel Swim week, and I am her support swimmer

Above: Loraine supported me on my channel swim day, now it's my turn to support her.

Today, Monday August 20, 2007 is the first day of the tide for Loraine Verghese's Channel Swim attempt. Loraine is swimming to try and raise £100,000 for a little boy called Jack who has a rare form of cancer. Jack's dad will be on the support boat with us.

Unfortunately, the weather is not looking good so far this week. Loraine is swimmer No. 3 which if the weather was good would mean that she swims on Wednesday. However, having spoken to her pilot Andy King (who was also my pilot) it's not looking good for the number 1 swimmer at least until Wednesday or Thursday. This means we won't be swimming until at least Saturday!

We will keep you informed here via this blog as to when we expect to set off.

TEXT UPDATE FROM LORAINE - 20/08/07 - 20:23 Hrs.
Weather forecast tomorrow not suitable for first swimmer but there is hope further in the week fingers crossed...

TEXT UPDATE FROM LORAINE - 22/08/07 - 12:45 Hrs.
To the crew of Louise Jane. Well and so the story goes "No pain, no gain". The waiting is torture, more like your nail being pulled out from the nail bed! But there is hope, can someone wave the magic wand. I want to get out there. Paul is keeping my spirits high and being a great support. Thanks Paul and to all who have already done it, lucky you! Will keep you posted. x

Above: A grim looking Dover Harbour from the web cam (see top right of this blog). No swim today unfortunately.

UPDATE FROM ANDY KING - 23/08/07 - 15:00 Hrs.
It look like Loraine will swim on Sunday morning. No. 1 tommorrow, No. 2 Saturday, No. 3 (Loraine) on Sunday morning. Spoke to Loraine, she would rather go Saturday night so she lands in France in daylight. I can understand that but have not done any night training before. This will be interesting...

Will update you when the swim is confirmed.

TEXT UPDATE FROM LORAINE - 24/08/07 - 09:06 Hrs.
Channel swim update... To the crew of Louise Jane. First swimmer off at 7am with weather looking good and sun out. So fingers crossed. Will update soon.

TEXT UPDATE FROM LORAINE - 24/08/07 - 15:42 Hrs.
Channel swim update... First swimmer out unable to make it. Bill [No. 2 swimmer] to leave tomorrow morning. Fingers crossed the weather stays good for me Arghhh ha ha.

E-MAIL FROM THE GENERAL - 24/08/07 - 17:25 Hrs.
The Bulgarian swimmer Peter Stoychev has just broken the world record with a time of 6 Hrs. 57 Minutes 50 Seconds!
A new English Channel World Record! Well done Peter. I met him in Dover a few weeks back and he said he would do it! Wow!

TEXT UPDATE FROM LORAINE - 25/08/07 - 07:15 Hrs.
Channel swim update... To the crew of Louise Jane, just seen Bill off [He's the No.2 swimmer with Andy King on The Louise Jane - Loraine is No. 3]. He looked ready to rock and rol. So now it looks like my turn tomorrow at around 8am.

UPDATE FROM PAUL - 25/08/07 - 18:05 Hrs.
I'm just leaving for Dover to support Loraine. Good luck Loraine from all here in Bury, and I will update the blog on Monday when I return.


Monday 13 August 2007

Hoffy wins Over 40's 2K in Dover Harbour, Mark Robson takes first dip in Channel and "Little Hoffy" get's a certificate from The General!

Above: Contestants line up for the start of the 2007 Dover Regatta Weekend 2000 Metre swim in Dover Harbour on Saturday August 11, 2007. The event is organised by Dover Lifeguard Club.

Saturday August 11, 2007 was Beccy's 32nd Birthday and we celebrated by having yet another weekend swimming in Dover Harbour! It is getting to be like a second home now and it was made extra special by the annual Dover Regatta Weekend taking place on the sea front. The event was organised by Dover Town Council and they really put on an excellent event.

At 10.00am, the 2000 Metres Harbour swim began, and I was swimming in the over 40's event with Mark Robson who was down for his first swim in Dover Harbour. I treated it as a very long sprint, and it was quite tough. We all swam over to the Prince of Wales Pier, and set off across the harbour, trying not to mingle or crash into The General's channel swimmers who were in training still for their channel swims. I had an interesting race with a girl in a red hat who kept swimming as close as she could to me, until eventually my elbows being slightly sharper than hers, she gave in and moved away! As I turned at the buoy to sprint for home, I was clear of any other swimmer, and came in 21st running up the beach and crossing the line. However, I was delighted to find out that I had come first in my age group (Men's over 40 event) in a time 28 Minutes 16.99 Seconds!

Above: Just finishing the race, and collapsing on the beach next to Beccy!

Above: With Beccy and "Little Hoffy" with my winners trophy for the Men's Over 40, 2000 Metres Freestyle event.

After a long hot day on the beach, we went out for dinner with Mark and Kelly at Cullins Yard, our favourite restaurant in Dover. When we got there Mark and Kelly gave Beccy a lovely vase for her birthday.

Above: Beccy is delighted with her vase, which was a birthday present from Mark and Kelly.

The next day having all woken up with slightly thick heads after a great night out, Mark and Kelly met many famous channel swimming names. Below, Andy King, my pilot and Mark's for next year, meets Mark and Kelly for the first time.

Above (L to R): Mark, Andy and Kelly.

When all the heads had cleared a little, I took Little Hoffy into the channel for his second channel swim training session. This time we headed down towards the Eastern Dock, but didn't go all the way due to it being quite a bit rougher than last Sunday.

Above: Little Hoffy with "Queen of The Channel" Alison Streeter MBE.

Above: A quick training session in our matching West Suffolk Swimming Club caps, then it's off for a choppy swim in Dover Harbour for Little Hoffy and Big Hoffy!

When we got back, I jokingly said to The General "Does Baz (Little Hoffy) get a 6 minute certificate for his swim today?". She laughed. About 10 minutes later, Alison said that Freda wanted to speak to Baz. When we got there, she presented him with a 6 hour swim certificate, with "hours" crossed out and minutes inserted. It says "Congratulations on your 6 minute swim in Dover Harbour". The General signed it and presented it to him, and he was as pleased as punch!
Above: The General present Little Hoffy with his 6 minute swim certificate.

We had a great weekend, and made two new friends in Mark and Kelly. Thanks very much for making it such a good weekend Mark and Kelly, and see you soon back in The Channel.

Next week, I will hopefully be back in The Channel supporting Loraine on her channel swim attempt.

Monday 6 August 2007

A visit to my landing spot at Wissant in France and "Little Hoffy" takes first dip in The Channel...

Above: On the beach at Wissant in France on Saturday August 04, 2007. This was the spot I came ashore on my channel swim day on July 10, 2007. Cap Griz Nez can be clearly seen just to my left.

Last weekend Bex, Baz and I decided to spend Saturday in France to see the spot where I came ashore at the end of my channel swim. We took the 06.25 Hrs. ferry from Dover to Calais on a beautiful sunny summers day. It was just as I remebered it, especially the houses on the sea front, although I was amazed at how far the tide was out compared to when I had landed. It must have been about 1/2 mile further out as there was not much beach on show the day I landed.

Above: the sandy beaches and sea front houses that greeted me when I swum to shore on July 10, 2007.

We had a great day in France and met up with our good friends Christine and David Palmer who were travelling back from two weeks in France. After a very calm trip back to Dover on the Pride of Canterbury ferry, we stayed in Dover to allow Baz to take his first swim in the English Channel on the Sunday.

After a very "full" full English breakfast, served up by Martin at The Sandown, we set off to the beach on what was the hottest day of the year so far. My car temperaure gauge registered 31.5 degrees Centigrade! When we arrived, we met up with Alla Cassidy who was one of the first people I met at the Open Water Swimming Championships at Tooting Bec Lido back in March. Alla was hoping to be the first Russian Woman to swim the English Channel. She swam last week and after swimming for about 12 hours in difficult conditions, she was pulled out of the water. I'm sure she will try again, but it was a valiant swim nonetherless.

Anyway, I promised Baz that I would take him in the channel and try to swim from "Swimmers Beach" to The Prince of Wales Pier and back again. He had never swum in the sea in this way before, and so I put my West Suffolk Swimming hat, goggles and ear plugs on him, and he was ready to go. I told him he looked like "Little Hoffy". So this is what I named him after the swim!

Above: Alla Cassidy, Hoffy and Little Hoffy prepare for Little Hoffy's swim in the English Channel.

Above: Instructions before we set off. Little Hoffy is braced as he feels the cold waters of the channel for the first time!

Above: Little Hoffy sandwiched between two channel swimmers, doing a great job!

Above: Bex takes a picture of us as we reach The Prince of Wales Pier, before turning round and swimming back again (below).

About 200 metres from home, Little Hoffy started to shiver and his bottom lip was quivering. However, he kept going and I am delighted to say he completed the 900 Metre swim! I was really proud of him, especially as he is only 14 and had never swum anything like that before and he didn't give up. I could see he was determined to complete the swim. It was a great achievement and I think I saw the beginnings of a new channel swimmer emerging!

Back to Dover next Saturday for a 2,000 Metre sprint race in the Harbour. I will report back after the race.